Sponsored By Miami-Dade Parks

(Courtesy: Miami-Dade Parks)

Goodbye, excuses — it’s time to get up, out and moving!

“This is going to be my year,” Irela Larach proclaimed. “I turned 50 last year and it’s time to make being healthy a part of 2017.”

Larach is one of millions who will resolve to lose weight, exercise more, and eat healthy in 2017. But to be successful, she needs to have a plan, stick to it, and be able to pick herself up when she falters.

“With my kids away at college I can’t make the excuse that I am too busy to make time for myself – it’s basically now or never,” she declared. The good news is that she doesn’t have to travel very far to start get started.

Miami-Dade Parks offers an assortment of fitness options that will help everyone, regardless of age or ability, to get off the couch and into a healthy lifestyle.

“One of the things I have always found intimidating is walking into a gym. Between the equipment, which looks way too complicated, to the ‘perfect’ bodies walking around, I just never felt comfortable,” Larach admits.

And she is not alone.

Anxiety, noise, smells, and crowds are some of the reasons why people don’t go to the gym. But, with Miami-Dade Parks Fitness Zone™ areas, using equipment is easy and stress free. The Parks department, in partnership with the Trust for Public Lands and TD Bank, has installed 24 Fitness Zone™ areas in parks throughout the county. These free outdoor gyms provide a fun, accessible social environment where people can enjoy getting fit. And with one in four Floridians classified as obese and at risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and depression, the Fitness Zone™ areas are a great solution. Each piece of equipment includes an easy-to-follow instruction guide and is ADA accessible.

Once Larach gets into the habit of using a Fitness Zone™ area and masters the exercises, her next goal is to up the challenge and move beyond her comfort zone.

“One of the keys to being successful with your exercise routine is to change it up and continually challenge yourself,” Troops for Fitness Coordinator Laura Ortiz shared. Troops for Fitness classes are boot camp-style workouts led by veterans who incorporate the parks’ outdoor gym areas into the training session. Instructors tailor the exercises based on the level and pace of participants in order to keep people inspired and engaged.

“Managing people’s expectations is a huge part of my job as a trainer,” Ortiz explained. “I love the enthusiasm my clients have at the beginning of their journey, but when they don’t get results immediately, some get frustrated and want to quit. Quitting isn’t an option. Exercise and eating right have to become a part of their new way of life, and must move to the top of their priority lists if they want to see real change.”

Ortiz, a National Guard veteran and amputee, has received both gold and silver medals in US Paralympic track events. She emphasizes that the program, “isn’t just about push-ups and squats. It also teaches the benefits of healthy nutrition and physical activity.” In addition to the workouts, her team of veteran instructors provide nutrition counseling, fitness planning, and more.


  • Do it for yourself.
  • Take baby steps.
  • Hang tough.
  • Mix it up.
  • Don’t be your own drill sergeant.
  • Bring a friend.
  • Be consistent.
  • Make it a habit.
  • Live in the present.
  • Keep it real.
  • Track it.
  • Celebrate!

While Larach celebrated a big milestone birthday last year, she’s still too young for the Active Older Adults program – a Park’s program that encourages adults 55 and older to improve their health and well-being by staying physically and mentally active. With more than 400 active older adults in the program, these feisty, friendly, and fierce older adults know the value of staying healthy. With indoor activities like ceramics and board games to the Cardio Fit Plus exercise classes designed to improve overall health through exercise, the Active Older Adults program has something for all energy and fitness levels. From field trips to making new friends, the Active Older Adults program is designed to keep your mind, body and spirit young. Discussions on how to manage blood glucose (sugar) better, ways to deal with symptoms of diabetes, proper medication use, and healthy eating also figure in the curriculum.

Now that Larach knows what’s available for her at a Miami-Dade Parks, what’s on her to-do list?

“I think I am going to talk a walk over to Tropical Park and check out one of those Fitness Zone™ areas,” she declared. “From there, who knows? But I am glad those options are there, so nearby, and that they are free.”


Miami-Dade Parks has 270 to choose from. Click here to find one near you.

  •  Active Older Adults (Ages 55+):               786-372-9701
  • Health & Wellness Programs:                     305-694-2728
  • Fit2Play & Fit2Lead Youth Programs:     786-315-5410
  • Park Disability Services:                                305-755-7848

More Articles From Miami-Dade Parks

Above content provided by Parks-Foundation of Miami-Dade and Miami-Dade Parks & Recreation





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